Saturday, March 03, 2007

Two Syllables

I've never been a fan of sitcoms starring stand-up comedians. That's why when Ellen DeGeneris and Ray Romano and Drew Carey and Margaret Cho and a lot of other comics got their own shows, I never watched them. My rationale was that watching a comedian deliver the lines written by a team of TV show writers would always be a disappointment, since the TV writers would never be as funny as the comedian.

I made an exception for Seinfeld, but that's mostly because I'd never heard of Jerry Seinfeld before. I also made an exception for Curb Your Enthusiasm, mostly because Larry David was also one of the creators of Seinfeld.

About fifteen years ago, there was a sitcom starring George Carlin. I made an exception for that show as well, but all it did was remind me why I shouldn't watch sitcoms starring stand-up comedians. George Carlin may be one of the funniest comedians around, but that show was pretty awful.

And then last year, I made an exception for Louis CK's show Lucky Louie. I always thought he was a funny comedian, and I thought Lucky Louie was a funny show, but it only lasted one season. I was disappointed, but I can't say I was surprised. Lucky Louie seemed intent on "pushing the envelope" as far as it could and in as many different directions as it could. There's nothing wrong with that, but when it becomes your primary focus, all you end up with is a severely distorted envelope.

This year I made an exception for The Sarah Silverman Program, because I always thought she was pretty funny. It's probably a misnomer to call her show a sitcom, though. It has situations, and it's a comedy, but that's where the similarity ends. It's really just a showcase for Sarah Silverman to do her thing. Surprisingly, given the nature of Sarah Silverman's stand-up comedy, the show doesn't really try to push any envelopes. And unfortunately, each show is a little less funny than the previous one, so I don't know how long it will last. I think it might wear itself out pretty quickly, and I'd be kind of surprised if it got picked up for a second season. But you never know.

Anyway, during one episode of The Sarah Silverman Program, she used the word "pubes." I've heard other comedians use this word in their stand-up acts, so I guess it must be a pretty funny word. But here's the thing: As far as I can tell, nobody has ever pronounced this word correctly. I've only heard it pronounced PYOOBZ, but the actual pronunciation is PYOO-beez. According to the various dictionaries I looked in, there isn't even a preferred pronunciation and an alternate pronunciation. There is only one pronunciation, and that pronunciation is PYOO-beez. It sounds silly -- and even sort of childish -- but there's nothing I can do about that. It's Latin. That's just the way it's pronounced.

So you might be asking yourself why I even care. Well, the truth is, I don't. But I did happen to look up the pronunciation in the dictionary about twenty years ago, and in the twenty years since then, I've been waiting for someone to pronounce it correctly. So far, no one ever has. At least, no stand-up comic ever has. And I don't think anyone else ever even uses the word. I know I don't. But if I did, I'd pronounce it correctly, which would mean that nobody would even know what I was talking about.